For three quarters, the Dallas Mavericks were bullying the Oklahoma City Thunder. As the older and more seasoned team, the Mavs threw their weight around by crashing the boards and swatting shots with authority.

At halftime, everyone on Dallas’ roster scored at least two points, with the bench contributing to 13 of the Mavs’ 54 first-half points. Meanwhile, the Thunder only had six bench points, all of which came from Aaron Wiggins. The 3-1 series hole was looking imminent. 

But OKC flipped the switch by the time the fourth quarter began.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had 12 points in the first half, but he began to find his groove in the third quarter and when things truly got going, he was hitting shots from all angles.


Gilgeous-Alexander would match his first half output in the third quarter, and with their best guy persevering through adversity, the rest of the Thunder soon caught on in the fourth quarter. Chet Holmgren was fighting the likes of Dallas’ Daniel Gafford, PJ Washington, and Dereck Lively II for rebounds. Jalen Williams joined Gilgeous-Alexander in making wild shots. Lu Dort was contributing on both ends of the floor.

For the Mavs, it seemed like these young guns weren’t going away without a fight. Despite their best efforts, OKC kept clawing back and little by little, Dallas was faltering (and Luka Doncic was hobbling). The better closer in Game 4, it turned out, were the Thunder.

It felt like OKC already grew up a lot this postseason, but Game 4 was their best win to date. Except for their playoff opener, the Thunder had comfortable wins in the 2024 NBA Playoffs that had pundits praising them and foreseeing a championship down the road. The Mavs provided a challenge in that they had generational playmakers (Doncic and Kyrie Irving and a bevy of athletic bodies (Gafford, Lively II, and Derrick Jones Jr., among others) to throw at them.


So far, they’re passing the test and Gilgeous-Alexander is all the more looking like a bonafide star. With their performances in Game 4, it’s also safe to say that the likes of Holmgren and Williams aren’t just lottery picks; they’re great players playing for a great team.

All things considered, OKC needed to see how they would fare against a team that could push them to the limit. And they have found that with Dallas.

It would, of course, be unwise to count out the Mavs given the talent on their squad. Doncic and Irving are hunters much like Gilgeous-Alexander and the Dallas frontcourt can match the youth of the Thunder with their energy. OKC can’t celebrate just yet, but they know that Game 4 showed that they can stand toe-to-toe with the Mavs.

As things stand, it’s a virtual best-of-three series for a spot in the Western Conference Finals. The Game 4 victory gave the OKC Thunder some momentum heading back to Oklahoma City and with the Dallas Mavericks bruised and battered from the physicality in this series and their last one with their Los Angeles Clippers, the Thunder have them where they want them.